URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/211.html

Hibiscus

What is it?

Hibiscus is a bushy annual plant. Parts of the flower are used to make a popular drink in Egypt called Karkade. Various parts of the plant are also used to make jams, spices, soups, and sauces. The flowers are used to make medicine.

Hibiscus is used for treating loss of appetite, colds, heart and nerve diseases, upper respiratory tract pain and swelling (inflammation), fluid retention, stomach irritation, and disorders of circulation; for dissolving phlegm; as a gentle laxative; and as a diuretic to increase urine output.

In foods and beverages, hibiscus is used as a flavoring. It is also used to improve the odor, flavor, or appearance of tea mixtures.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for HIBISCUS are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • High blood pressure. Some early research shows that drinking hibiscus tea for 2-6 weeks decreases blood pressure in people with mildly high blood pressure. Other early research shows that taking a hibiscus extract by mouth for 4 weeks may be as effective as the prescription drug captopril for reducing blood pressure in people with mild to moderate high blood pressure. However, an analysis of results from various clinical studies suggests that there is not enough evidence to draw strong conclusions about the effects of hibiscus in reducing high blood pressure.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • High cholesterol. Some early research suggests that taking hibiscus extract by mouth or consuming hibiscus tea might lower cholesterol levels in people with metabolic syndrome or diabetes. However other early research shows that taking a specific extract of hibiscus leaves (Green Chem, Bangalore, India) for 90 days does not improve cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. Also, taking hibiscus extract by mouth for 12 weeks does not appear to reduce cholesterol compared to the drug pravastatin and may actually increase cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Colds.
  • Constipation.
  • Irritated stomach.
  • Fluid retention.
  • Heart disease.
  • Nerve disease.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate hibiscus for these uses.

How does it work?

The fruit acids in hibiscus may work like a laxative. Some researchers think that other chemicals in hibiscus might be able to lower blood pressure; decrease spasms in the stomach, intestines, and uterus; and work like antibiotics to kill bacteria and worms.

Are there safety concerns?

Hibiscus is LIKELY SAFE for most people in when consumed in food amounts. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately in medicinal amounts. The possible side effects of hibiscus are not known.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Hibiscus is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. There is some evidence that hibiscus might start menstruation, and this could cause a miscarriage. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking hibiscus if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side, and avoid use.

Diabetes: Hibiscus might decrease blood sugar levels. The dose of your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.

Low blood pressure: Hibiscus might lower blood pressure. In theory, taking hibiscus might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.

Surgery: Hibiscus might affect blood sugar levels, making blood sugar control difficult during and after surgery. Stop using hibiscus at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Major
Do not take this combination.
Chloroquine
Hibiscus tea might reduce the amount of chloroquine that the body can absorb and use. Taking hibiscus tea along with chloroquine might reduce the effectiveness of chloroquine. People taking chloroquine for the treatment or prevention of malaria should avoid hibiscus products.
Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Hibiscus might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking hibiscus along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Hibiscus might lower blood pressure. Taking hibiscus along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Do not take too much hibiscus if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.

Some medications for high blood pressure include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.
Minor
Be watchful with this combination.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
Drinking a hibiscus beverage before taking acetaminophen might increase how fast your body gets rid of acetaminophen. But more information is needed to know if this is a big concern.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
Hibiscus may lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of blood pressure dropping too low. Some of these products include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lycium, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
Hibiscus might lower blood sugar levels. Taking it along with other herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar might increase the risk of blood sugar becoming too low. Some herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar include alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, chromium, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of hibiscus depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for hibiscus. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Ambashthaki, Bissap, Gongura, Groseille de Guinée, Guinea Sorrel, Hibisco, Hibiscus Calyx, Hibiscus sabdariffa, Jamaica Sorrel, Karkade, Karkadé, Oseille de Guinée, Oseille Rouge, Pulicha Keerai, Red Sorrel, Red Tea, Rosa de Jamaica, Roselle, Sour Tea, Sudanese Tea, Thé Rose d’Abyssinie, Thé Rouge, Zobo, Zobo Tea.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 02/14/2015